The rise of Angola’s kuduro sensation

 

His Adidas T-shirt is a psychedelic swirl of flowers, and he looks rather fetching in tight red jeans, black-and-red Nike Air Jordans and a red leather jacket folded over his lap. We sit opposite each other at a pavement table at Daleah’s, a coffee shop in Braamfontein, Joburg. Angolan kuduro star Cabo Snoop (real name Ivo Manuel Lemus), 25, looks every bit the B-boy you’d expect.

It’s an awkward few minutes. Cabo Snoop doesn’t speak any English, and my Portuguese is non-existent, so we wait for his South African manager to return with his water so we can begin our chat.

He may be lanky, but he certainly does not look anything like Snoop Dogg, from whom the second part of his name is borrowed. Cabo means “captain”, and the name reportedly arose because Angolan recording label Powerhouse, which first signed Cabo Snoop in 2010, was supposedly run like the military. The head of Powerhouse, Hochi Fu, was considered the general.

Young Lemus regularly hung around the studio and started trying out as a vocalist on some of Fu’s productions. Then it happened; Cabo Snoop rose to global stardom in 2010 on the back of his smash single, Windeck, which combined fuzzy synths and military beats into a global dance floor hit. Angolans went wild for it, and the rest of Africa and the world soon followed suit. He went on to win best Lusophone artist at the 2010 Asian Music Awards. The song was so popular, it inspired an Angolan television soapie about the lives of kuduro stars, which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2013. Windeck has since been remixed by artists from all over the globe.

Cabo Snoop’s is a rags-to-riches story that saw a teenage hip-hop dancer from Luanda become a kuduro sensation. Five years later, after having played in more than 20 countries, he is in Braamfontein. “You never expect one of your songs to go boom,” he says humbly.

Kuduro is a dance genre that originated in war-torn 1990s Angola. It means “hard arse”, for no other reason than because kuduro dancers look like they have firm backsides. The vibrant music is intended for the dance floor, but in Angola it is ubiquitous, blasting from taxis, mobile phones, TVs, clubs, halls and football stadiums everywhere. It fuses Afrohouse, techno, kwaito, hip-hop, dancehall and various Angolan music styles with a hard banging sound: crunchy DIY beats punctuated by gunshots, sirens and orgasmic moans.

“This is music that came from the ghetto, but people’s mindsets are changing,” says Cabo Snoop, explaining that kuduro gained more respect after filmmaker Mário Patrocínio released the documentary I Love Kuduro in 2013. Cabo Snoop is too modest – the genre also owes its international popularity to stars like himself and others such as Bruno de Castro, Eduardo Paim, Sebém, Nagrelha, Hochi Fu, Os Namayer, Tchobari, Titica and Francis Boy.

One of the narratives in the documentary is about Cabo Snoop dreaming of being a star as a teenage dancer. “Those were the best days of my career,” he says smiling. “They made me who I am today. Everyone was telling us we will never amount to anything, and we wanted to prove them wrong.” Cabo Snoop’s first love was hip-hop, another music genre that wasn’t respected in Angola when he began dancing. But he lived for it. “When I wasn’t studying, I was dancing,” he says energetically, as though he’s about to break it down.

Although Cabo Snoop is happy the music is evolving and kuduro is reaching new, non-Portuguese audiences, he feels many of the new projects drawing from the Angolan genre tend to dilute its authenticity. The man has a point. Kuduro is another vibrant African electronic genre easily co-opted for Western dance floors. But the politics of who controls and benefits from this popularity are fraught with tension.

Because of lazy reporting, many people believe the music originated in Lisbon ghettos through producers such as DJ Marfox (Marlon Silva) and DJ Nigga Fox (Rogério Brandão) is kuduro. Marfox cleared this up for me during a recent interview, and Cabo Snoop respectfully agrees that their music is not kuduro.

Instead, Marfox sees their sound as a new genre – one influenced by kuduro, as well as other genres such as kizomba, tarraxinha, techno and acid house. He calls his music “batida” – the Portuguese word for “beat”. He says Angolan music and batida were speaking to each other from across the ocean.

So what is Cabo Snoop doing so far away from Angola’s ocean coast? He tells me he is in Joburg to collaborate with South African kwaito producer Maphorisa (Themba Sekowe) from the group Uhuru.

Cabo Snoop is no stranger to South Africa. He was here in April last year to shoot a video with Zimbabwe’s Buffalo Souljah Thabani Ndlovu, and again in November for a gig at the Angolan Independence Day party in Sandton, attending Sekowe’s birthday party on the same trip. Collaborating with South African producers is nothing new for Cabo Snoop; he has worked with DJ Cleo and Zakes Bantwini, and performed live with Professor.

From South Africa, Cabo Snoop heads to Mozambique to shoot a video with Yuri da Cunha, the star responsible for Atchu Tchutcha, which Oskido and Uhuru repurposed as Y-Tjukutja. He says he has also been invited to Nigeria by 2Face to play a gig, and is looking to collaborate with the Nigerian hip-hop star. Later this year, Cabo Snoop is hoping to head to the United States to promote a collaboration with American reggae artist Shaggy.

Cabo Snoop is a young man on the move who is growing and moving his music in new and innovative ways, but he remains rooted in kuduro. His new album is set for release in July, which will undoubtedly deepen a growing admiration and fan base for Cabo Snoop as an artist and kuduro as a genre.

 

Pic Credit: Tseliso Monaheng


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